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  • A court rendering by Jane Rosenberg depicts U.S. prosecutor Adam Fels, Judge Brian Cogan, and Joaquin Guzman at his trial in Brooklyn, New York. Nov. 13, 2018.

    A court rendering by Jane Rosenberg depicts U.S. prosecutor Adam Fels, Judge Brian Cogan, and Joaquin Guzman at his trial in Brooklyn, New York. Nov. 13, 2018. | Photo: EFE

Published 16 November 2018

Witnesses for defense the of Joaquin Guzman claim to have bribed "current and previous" Mexican presidents and other high profile institutions.

Less than a week after a trial against the infamous Joaquin “el Chapo” Guzman started, declarations in court from both sides have pointed at high-profile corruption networks involving President Enrique Peña Nieto, his predecessor Felipe Calderon, Interpol and Mexican security institutions.

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U.S. prosecutors brought Jesus “El Rey” Zambada Garcia, a former member of the Sinaloa Cartel and brother of the drug lord Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, as one of the main witnesses in the case against Guzman. Since then, he has revealed detailed information about the cartel’s extensive bribery network.

“Guzman and his Sinaloa Cartel used to bribe Mexico’s prosecutors office, the police, the military and even the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), paying bribes up to US$300,000 every month in Mexico City,” said Zambada.

The bribes would pay off the necessary officials to get their products into the country and out to the U.S.

According to “El Rey” Zambada, testifying at the East District Court in Brooklyn, the Sinaloa Cartel controlled the International Airport of Mexico City and other local airports in several states.

“My responsibility in Mexico City was to control the authorities by bribing the army and police high commands in exchange for protection and security for drug shipments and the drug trafficking activities of the Sinaloa Cartel,” he declared.

Zambada said he was ordered by Guzman to give US$100,000, and a hug, to General Gilberto Toledano Sanchez in 2004, who was in charge of the military in the state of Guerrero.

The former member of the Sinaloa cartel was arrested in Mexico in 2008 and extradited to the U.S. in 2012. Prosecutors presented him as a witness and a former ‘sub leader’ of the cartel between 1987 and 2008, the year he was detained. He accused Guzman of being “one of the most important drug dealers” in the history of Mexico and one of the leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel along with his brother “El Mayo.”

Presidential Involvement

In addition, Guzman’s defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman claimed Tuesday that “El Mayo” Zambada, co-founder of the Sinaloa Cartel, handed over hundreds of millions of dollars to the outgoing incumbent President Enrique Peña Nieto, as well as his predecessor Felipe Calderon in order to maintain the cartel’s business.

Lichtman accused “El Mayo," who has never been arrested and has paid “the current and previous president of Mexico … millions of dollars in bribes,” of being the real leader of the cartel. According to Lichtman, Guzman is only a mid-level member under Zambada’s orders, albeit with a “mythological” aura about him that enableed the Mexican government to scapegoat him in the murder case of Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo.

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“Mayo can get someone arrested and make the army or the police kill anyone he wants,” said Lichtman.

The defense argued that in the two years since Guzman was arrested, the drug influx from Mexico to the U.S. has not stopped, suggesting that Zambada is the real man in charge of the Sinaloa cartel.

Responding to Lichtman’s comments, the spokesperson of Mexico’s presidency Eduardo Sanchez Hernandez denied that Peña Nieto had received any money from the cartel.

Ex-president Felipe Calderon also rejected the comments.

“The affirmations by the lawyer of Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman are absolutely false and reckless. Neither him nor the Sinaloa Cartel nor any other paid me,” wrote Calderon on his Twitter account.

Guzman’s defense has also pointed out that the witnesses chosen by U.S. prosecutors are cooperating for the sole purpose of reducing their own sentences.

If the former drug dealer is found guilty of trafficking tons of cocaine into the U.S., he could face a life sentence.

Prosecutor Adam Fels explained that Guzman imported enough cocaine to “give a line” to every U.S. citizen, meaning about 325 million lines about 10 centimeters long.


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